Kent aims to become a University of Sanctuary

Heidi Pullig
'Little Amal' is welcomed to Canterbury campus on her journey from Turkey

Kent is applying for University of Sanctuary status, to join the group of fellow universities in the UK who support those in need of places of safety, when faced with crisis.

As part of the City of Sanctuary movement, the Universities of Sanctuary network aims to make Higher Education institutions safe havens for solidarity and empowerment.

To support Kent’s efforts to achieve this status, speakers from the University will host a series of reflective and self-critical seminars to address the question ‘What is Sanctuary?’

Hosted by the Migration and Movement Signature Research Theme, the seminars will discuss what sanctuary means and entails. Contributions will be a mix of academic talks and reflections on lived experience, delivered by speakers with a range of disciplines, career stages and backgrounds.

The first of these reflective sessions, taking place on 9 November, 16.00 – 17.00, will include comments from Thomas Tegento, MA Student in Physical Theatre, about the meaning of sanctuary from the perspective of his lived experience as a refugee.

With Thomas, Sheona York – Reader in Law and Clinic Solicitor, and Dr Julia Hope – Lecturer in Higher Education and Academic Practice, will share their thoughts what it can mean for a university to offer sanctuary, how the University of Kent can support people whose status in the UK is rendered precarious by current immigration laws, and what sanctuary means when working remotely with people who have experienced displacement – from their areas of expertise.

An additional seminar will take place on 7 December, 16.00 – 17.00, to further the conversation on sanctuary with comments from Dr Lucy Williams – Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Dr Rachel Gregory Fox – Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, and Basma El-Dhouki – GCDC Doctoral Candidate.

Basma is a Palestinian refugee living and working in Lebanon, who is active in humanitarian and development work with refugees and asylum seekers, with a focus on sexual and gender-based violence, child protection and general protection, prevention and response programs.

Dr Rachel Gregory Fox will consider the subject of the refugee camps as presented in Yousif M. Qasmiyeh’s Writing the Camp – that while refugee camps, in some respects, represent places of apparent safety and shelter, they are also contingent and precarious. Additionally, Dr Lucy Williams will present a paper that asks if encouraging sanctuary in our communities and workplaces can bring attention back to the individual to challenge both policy and public portrayals of migration?

The sessions will take place online and are open to all.